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History - how important is it?

Hannah Hunter Hannah Hunter | 12:44 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

History is important – as Michael Crichton asserts, "If you don't know [your family's] history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree". The study of our history is a way to put the pieces of the past together and show how we came to be where we are today.  Surely it is vital to include this in a well-rounded education?

However, many children leave school without having had the opportunity to gain a basic historical knowledge of this country, let alone of any others. A lot of school children from Key Stage 3 (age 11 and up) are being taught history in combination with other humanities subjects, increasingly by teachers with no training in the subject.  

Primary History image

History has a stuffy reputation, but it doesn’t have to be like that. I enjoyed history at school, enough to pursue it to graduate level, studying History of Art.  Not only does it give insight into modern society and how it came about, but it is also full of fantastic stories - Catherine the Great and her over-the-top antics; the beginning of modern politics with Pitt the Elder, the Whigs and the Tories; the rise of fascism in 1930s Europe.   

Surely that is what education is for – to enrich and delight, and to foster a desire for knowledge?  A recent BBC series in association with the British Museum, managed to combine these elements.  ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’  took fascinating objects and told their stories in an engaging way.  There’s no reason why this approach couldn’t be built on in schools.

Fewer than a third of children take history beyond age 14, and are apparently put off by the project-based nature of the subject.  Michael Gove has recently promised to overhaul the history curriculum, with the help of Simon Schama. 

Gove wants all children to leave school with a basic knowledge of "narrative British history". Hopefully this means that it will be taught well and will engage students, rather than the widely taken approach of learning about historical figures from various eras, without filling the historical gaps.

History is a vital part of a well-rounded education. From explorations in Primary school, to in depth analyses at A-level, it allows pupils to explore, question and to understand the past and its impact.  It’s frightening to think that so many will leave school without a basic knowledge of history - to paraphrase Edmund Burke, if you don’t know history you are doomed to repeat it. 

Hannah Hunter is a member of the BBC Parent Panel.

Look out for the new BBC One series, Turn Back Time: The High Street from November 2nd. 

 

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